How US Uses Social Media as a Force for Good

Recognizing how quickly things can change around the world social media, the United States of America today unveiled reasons about why it’s so important to use it as a force for good and what the State Department is doing to make that happen.

In her remarks for Pacific Council on International Policy at Los Angeles, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine says social media has evolved into the most powerful, galvanizing catalyst of time for better and for worse.

“It is arguably as significant an event in our shared human history as the industrial revolution.” -Ms. Sonenshine

Mark Zuckerberg cocreated Facebook in his Harvard dorm room.

In Tunisia, the world saw social media as a catalyst for largely positive change.

She stresses that through social media that desperate act led to a revolution that galvanized the region and set course for a long and bumpy road towards democratization.

However, in the previous week, social media has sparked violence in many countries from Khartoum to Cairo, Tunis, and Benghazi.

Ms. Sonenshine cites that many protestors were outraged by a reprehensible video uploaded here in America.

“As you know, the United States Government had nothing to do with the video, and soundly condemned its message and content.” -Ms. Sonenshine

In her remarks, Ms. Sonenshine share a few facts about social media.

Every second, one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. Every two hours, that total becomes nine months’ worth, she cited.

“By the end of every single day, the equivalent of a decade is uploaded every day.” -Ms. Sonenshine

She reports that in the past four years, the number of Facebook accounts worldwide has increased sevenfold and there has been significant growth in countries critical to U.S. security.

These quantum leaps in connection technologies are changing, literally, everything, she said.

She says that Secretary Clinton has called upon all states to adopt and institutionalize 21st Century Statecraft, so they can remain at the forefront of the world’s most vibrant conversations.

“By listening and responding through social media, we can create a vibrant two-way dialogue with the world in ways we never have before.” -Ms. Sonenshine

In the case of Libya and its aftermath, the US government engaging audiences everywhere about its staunch belief in freedom of expression and its unbreakable position on religious tolerance.

She announces that Secretary Clinton just released an important video on Youtube expressing those ideas.

“As President Obama says on that video: in the United States, we see no contradiction between our strong religious beliefs and our defense of those who would utter the worst blasphemies against them.” -Ms. Sonenshine

She says the US govenment engages proactively, with audiences of young people, women and girls, and other underserved communities to reinforce their most positive aspirations.

It also works to redirect them from voices that would convert their frustrations as well as hopes and dreams for negative, extremist purposes, she added.

Ms. Sonenshine says she wrote a blog posting on US State Department website. She spoke about the great social media toolbox that the US governmen use in so many ways to reach out.

U.S. Ambassadors are introducing themselves to citizens through video messages broadcast online and via local media. They are holding web chats with the public, she added.

“And it has become practically unthinkable for them not to have a Twitter account.” -Ms. Sonenshine

She adds that the US State Department is even connecting with foreign publics in non-permissive environments, such as Cuba or Iran, through our virtual embassies and SMS text campaigns

The traditional State Department briefing podium is not gone, she said.

In fact, it matters more than ever and the State Department is giving it new amplification power, she stressed.

“Our State Department social media accounts and those of our embassies disseminate press briefings, speeches, media notes, videos, and online materials everywhere.” -Ms. Sonenshine

The State Department is also conducting virtual press conferences with journalists on every continent through our “LiveAtState” program.

It has U.S. International Media Hubs working across the world to communicate our messages and help explain U.S. policy, Ms. Sonenshine noted.

Beyond the podium, the State Department also recognizes that speaking with people, and listening to them, is an integral part of the policy process.

“That is the essence of public diplomacy.” -Ms. Sonenshine

She even adds that the State Department also reaches out to hundreds of thousands of people every single day through exchange programs, roundtables, and outreach to religious scholars and NGO leaders, businesspeople and entrepreneurs, students and educational advisors.

She notes that Many people do not realize this, but the State Department has more than 800 “American Spaces” around the world.

These spaces whether they are corners in libraries or rooms at binational centers give foreign citizens the chance to learn English, she underlined.

“They can meet and interact with American subject-matter experts. They can find information on study abroad opportunities in the U.S.” -Ms. Sonenshine

All of this can be particularly effective in countries where Internet access is limited or restricted, she pointed out.

And in the United States, the State Department holds discussions with students across the United States through our Foreign Policy Classrooms program.

The result of these efforts is a more informed, more engaged, and global citizenry, which is vital to the long-terms interests of the United States from the vantage point of economic prosperity and security, Ms. Sonenshine stressed.

“In short, public diplomacy goes on, despite all the vicissitudes of global events.” -Ms. Sonenshine

Ms. Sonenshine finally stresses that by working together and using social media as a tool of positive communication, the State Department can win the battle for the best in humanity.”

Social media is gaining a foothold in workplaces across the United States. Reports say 12 percent of employees approving of the personal use of social media while at work.

Last month, an anti-Islamic film has sparked international protests and criticism in countries across the world.

Reports say the anti-Islamic video was produced by a US citizen in the state of California.

To show protest against the video, a mob of demonstrators stormed the United States Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi which has killed the US ambassador to the country, Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats, and left other people injured.

According to media reports, demonstrations against the film were first cited in Egypt which reportedly left more than 200 people injured. Islamist protesters attacked the US embassy walls in Cairo and replaced the US flag with an Islamic one.

In Yemen, protesters stormed the US embassy compound. The incident led to one death and injured 15 others.

Reports say other protests have erupted in Sudan, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.